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Understanding the Orchestra

1 day, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

French horn The sound of a great symphony orchestra in full flight is one of the most thrilling sounds in all of western classical music. This course explores the instruments of the orchestra and the variety of sounds they can achieve, and examines the growth and development of the symphony orchestra. It also explores the kind of music written for the orchestra, by examining some of the greatest composers and compositions of all time. No prior musical knowledge is necessary.

This is a shorter version of the 8-week course "A Beginner's Guide to the Orchestra."

Comments about this course

"I loved the course. It’ll make a difference, positively, at my next concert. Very helpful in ‘isolating’ instruments and sections of the orchestra. What I’ve learned will enhance my musical, emotional and spiritual experience at my next concert. Appreciation of depth of knowledge of subject matter. A large subject covered very well" - Britta, Manly

"Susan has an immense store of musical knowledge which she presents by her command of technology ina most accessible and enjoyable way. A most enjoyable day" - Pam, Cammeray

"Informative and entertaining. The material was very well researched and perfect to demonstrate the subject. A really well delivered course which covered a large subject very efficiently" - Zandra, Elizabeth Bay

"Thank you Susan. The course today has helped me to understand more fully what I hear when I attend a concert. I particularly appreciated the explanation about the range of the instruments. These courses that you conduct are thoroughly prepared, have material and content helpful to both the beginner to classical music and to those with a little more knowledge keen to improve that knowledge. I really enjoy the analysis of the different pieces. Themes, forms etc all aid my appreciation of the music" - Felicity, McMahons Point"

Course Contents

Session 1

What is a symphony orchestra?

Symphony Orchestra versus Philharmonic Orchestra
The Structure of a Symphony Orchestra
How sound is made
The instrument families
The layout of an orchestra

Session 2

The String Section

About string instruments
Individual string instruments
Violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp

The Woodwind Section

About woodwind instruments
Individual woodwinds
Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon

Session 3

The Brass Section

About brass instruments
Individual brass instruments
Trumpet, trombone, horn, tuba

The Percussion Section

About percussion instruments
Tuned percussion instruments
Percussion instruments of indefinite pitch

Session 4

Conductors and Conducting

What the conductor does
Interpreting the work
Controlling the orchestra


Aspects of orchestration
Orchestration as a part of composition
Orchestration and arrangement

More about Susan Deas

Susan has been teaching adult music appreciation courses for over 10 years, through Sydney University's Centre for Continuing Education and WEA Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Music with a major in performance (piano) and musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and the A.Mus.A in Musicianship. She teaches piano and musicianship to adults and children, and performs on the piano and organ in various venues around Sydney.

More about Susan's qualifications

Read what people have said about Susan's other courses

Susan's other music courses